Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (also known as BDS) is a Palestinian-led campaign promoting various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets what the campaign describes as Israel's obligations under international law, defined as withdrawal from the occupied territories, removal of the separation barrier in the West Bank, full equality for Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and "respecting, protecting, and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties". The campaign is organized and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee.
|Formation||9 July 2005|
|Purpose||Boycotts, political activism|
Protests and conferences in support of the campaign have been held in a number of countries. BDS supporters compare the movement to the 20th-century anti-apartheid movement and view their actions similar to the boycotts of South Africa during its apartheid era, comparing the situation in Israel to apartheid.
Critics of BDS reject its charge that Israel is an apartheid state, asserting that in Israel (outside of the West Bank) "Jews and Arabs mix freely and increasingly live in the same neighborhoods...there is no imposed segregation." Critics have also argued that the BDS movement is antisemitic in the form its opposition to Zionism takes, drawing analogies to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses and accusing it of promoting the delegitimization of Israel.
One of the objectives stated at the founding of the Arab League in 1945 was to "frustrate further Jewish development in Palestine by means of boycott against Zionist products". A central boycott office was established to coordinate this effort. After the establishment of Israel in 1948, the boycott of Jewish products from Palestine was transformed into the boycott of Israeli products and services. The boycott was conducted on a primary level (as a direct boycott of Israeli products), a secondary level (though direct pressure on states and institutions not to deal with Israel), and a tertiary level (to prevent companies from uninvolved third-party states from dealing with companies that had relationships with Israel).
Zachor Legal Institute founder Marc Greendorfer argued in the Roger Williams University Law Review that the BDS movement originated in the Arab League's boycott of Israel in name, in function, in tasks, in methodology and in goals. Historian Alex Joffe agreed and added the General Union of Palestinian Students, Muslim Brotherhood activities within the United States, and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign as historical antecedents. Accordingly, Joffe wrote, unresolved issues originating in the Cold War relationship between pan-Islamism and Communism are driving historical forces behind the BDS movement.
During the Second Intifada, Palestinians began developing international solidarity and support that could be used to apply pressure on Israel nonviolently. In 2002 organizations in Europe, Australia, the United States, and the Palestinian territories called for a boycott of Israeli institutions, including a boycott of academic and cultural institutions. Palestinian academics and intellectuals also called for a boycott in October 2003. In 2004 an attempt to coordinate the boycotts gained momentum following the start of the construction of the Israeli West Bank barrier. In April 2004 the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) was founded. One of the founders was Omar Barghouti.
There is disagreement over exactly when and how the BDS movement began. According to the BDS movement's website, on 9 July 2005, the first anniversary of the advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice in which the West Bank barrier was declared a violation of international law, a broad spectrum of over 170 Palestinian non-governmental organizations initiated a campaign for a boycott, divestment and international sanctions against Israel until it complied with international law and universal principles of human rights. A number of scholars with differing perspectives concerning the Arab-Israeli conflict, from the right-wing Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs to the left-wing historian Ilan Pappé, dispute the BDS movement's account of its origins. Some of them have asserted that the BDS movement has been active since at least 2001, that some of the Palestinian NGOs referenced in BDS literature do not exist, and that a significant percentage of the NGOs that do exist come from countries outside of Israel or the Palestinian territories.
At the first Palestinian BDS conference, held in Ramallah in November 2007, the BDS National Committee was established as the Palestinian coordinating body for the BDS campaign worldwide. The movement's main example and source of inspiration is the international boycott of South Africa by anti-apartheid activists.
Goals of the campaign
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The BDS campaign is organised and coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee. The committee cites a body of UN resolutions and specifically echoes the anti-apartheid campaigns against white minority rule in apartheid era South Africa; the BDS campaign calls for "various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law".
The BDS Movement advocates the boycott, divestment, and sanctioning of Israel. It has found the most success in university settings, where Israel may be judged in the court of public opinion. The campaign has organized demonstrations and protests targeting companies that have contracts with the Israeli military or with companies in Israeli settlements. Actions may also target prominent individuals who openly support settlements businesses.
At the grassroots level, social media, petitions, articles, and on-campus events pressure individuals to cancel their participation in events in Israel or in Israeli settlements, such as concerts or academic events. These activities are intended to link Israel to negatively-charged words such as "apartheid" and "racism." At the same time, Israelis are pressured not to take part in activities outside Israel or the Occupied territories. Participants in events are sometimes demanded to declare solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) is a series of such events normally held in February or March. Since IAW began in Toronto in 2005, it has since spread to at least 55 cities around the world including locations in Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Austria, Jordan, Japan, Korea, Brazil, Botswana, Malaysia, the United Kingdom, the United States, South Africa, Mexico, Norway, Australia, and Palestine.
Its opponents argue that at official university levels, the BDS movement inundates university organizations and departments with various and recurring anti-Israel resolutions, often without notice or time for open debate. They say that BDS supporters bring outsiders to influence opinion or to vote on university resolutions even when this is unauthorized. Whether a resolution passes is not as important as keeping the debate alive at official university levels. The goal is to influence future policymakers to find fault with Israel.
Financial and organizational ties
The BDS movement is diverse enough that no single organization controls the entire movement. But some of the movement's opponents have criticized what they say are close ties to militant organizations in the Middle East.
In February 2019 the Israeli Strategic Affairs Ministry reported that a number of current or former members of designated terrorist organizations, Hamas and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), were financially and organizationally involved in the BDS movement. For example, Rasmea Yousef Odeh, a former PFLP member who participated in a bombing that killed two students in 1969, participated in meetings organized by Jewish Voice for Peace and National Students for Justice in Palestine in the United States. BDS organizers said the report was "wildly fabricated" and declined to respond.
Jonathan Schanzer, vice president of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former terrorism finance analyst for the U.S. Treasury Department, has argued that there are links between American supporters of Hamas and the BDS campaign. In April 2016 Schanzer testified before the U.S. House Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade that "in the case of three organizations that were designated, shut down, or held civilly liable for providing material support to the terrorist organization Hamas, a significant contingent of their former leadership appears to have pivoted to leadership positions within the American BDS campaign."
Universities have been primary targets of the BDS movement, according to English professor Cary Nelson, "because faculty and students can become passionate about justice, sometimes without adequate knowledge about the facts and consequences. ... [U]niversities also offer the potential for small numbers of BDS activists to leverage institutional status and reputation for a more significant cultural and political impact."
The campaign for academic boycotts of Israel has been led by the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, which has been endorsed by nearly 60 Palestinian academic, cultural and other civil society federations, unions, and organizations, including the Federation of Unions of Palestinian Universities' Professors and Employees and the Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO) in the West Bank. Sari Nusseibeh, former president of Al-Quds University, opposed a boycott of Israeli universities in 2014. A handful of Palestinian scholars oppose cutting academic ties and have differing views on what practical results the boycott on Israel will have.
Academics in a number of countries have signed on to support the campaign. In December 2013 the American Studies Association (ASA) joined the boycott of all Israeli academic institutions. Israel is the only nation ever boycotted by the ASA in the 52 years since the organization's founding.
As of March 2018 resolutions to endorse BDS had not had any effect on college investment decisions, according to Nelson. The effect they do have, he says, is the promotion of anti-Israel (and sometimes antisemitic) sentiment within student bodies, faculty, and academic departments.
After previously agreeing to write a letter of recommendation for a student, a University of Michigan professor declined to write it after discovering the student was planning to study in Israel. After critics called a letter to the student anti-semitic, the professor said he supports BDS for human rights reasons and rejects antisemitism. Guidelines from a Palestinian organization associated with BDS say faculty "should not accept to write recommendations for students hoping to pursue studies in Israel". 58 civil rights, religious, and education advocacy organizations called on the university to sanction the professor. University officials ended the controversy by disciplining the professor and issuing a public statement that read in part, "Withholding letters of recommendation based on personal views does not meet our university’s expectations for supporting the academic aspirations of our students. Conduct that violates this expectation and harms students will not be tolerated and will be addressed with serious consequences. Such actions interfere with our students’ opportunities, violate their academic freedom and betray our university's educational mission."
Effects of business boycotts on Palestinian employment
Opponents of BDS argue that BDS destroys employment for Palestinians. They argue that companies in settlements are beneficial for Palestinians. They claim that they offer employment with high wages compared with Palestinian factories and that the Palestinians are happy with their jobs and do not feel exploited. Proponents of BDS say that in 2011 many Palestinians worked in settlements without permits and earn less than the Israeli minimum wage or even less than half the minimum wage. In the former SodaStream factory in Ma'ale Adumim, for example, for entry-level employees there was not much difference in the salaries between SodaStream and Palestinian factories. The majority of Palestinian employees at SodaStream had renewable seasonal contracts that last only three months each. According to a study conducted by Al Quds University, 82% of Palestinians working in Israeli settlements stated they would like to quit these jobs if alternative employment were available in the West Bank. Omar Barghouti said that the fact that "tens of thousands" of Palestinians work in settlements is the direct result of Israeli policy. For decades Israel has been "systematically destroying Palestinian industry and agriculture, confiscating our most fertile lands and richest water reserves, and imposing extreme restrictions of movement preventing many from reaching their workplaces". According to Who Profits, all of the Palestinian trade unions and labor unions and almost all Palestinian civil society organizations, including political parties, support the BDS call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Examples of business boycotts
In 2013 Luxembourg's state pension fund, FDC, "excluded from [its] authorised investment universe" eight major Israeli firms, including Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, and AFI Group. FDC also excluded American firm Motorola Solutions. Norway's YMCA-YWCA joined the boycott in 2014, announcing that it would support "[a] broad economic boycott of goods and services from Israel and Israeli settlements". In February 2016 Crepes & Waffles terminated its security transport contracts with British company G4S."
The organizers of the weeklong Rototom Sunsplash music festival held in Spain in 2015 cancelled the scheduled appearance of Jewish American rapper Matisyahu after he refused to sign a statement supporting a Palestinian state. Matisyahu said that it was "appalling and offensive" that he was singled out as the "one publicly Jewish-American artist". After criticism from Spain's daily paper El País and the Spanish government as well as Jewish organisations, the organisers apologised to Matisyahu and reinvited him to perform, saying they "made a mistake, due to the boycott and the campaign of pressure, coercion and threats employed by the BDS País Valencià."
In December 2017 New Zealand pop star Lorde cancelled the 5 June 2018 concert of her Melodrama World Tour in Tel Aviv after being urged by fans to boycott Israel, supporting the ongoing cultural boycott on the nation.
Impact of BDS
The movement's effectiveness has been questioned. Some reports indicated that the movement had made little impact on the Israeli economy and suggested that it was unlikely to for the foreseeable future. According to Haaretz columnist and Brown University student Jared Samilow, BDS's most significant impact is the social cost it puts upon Jews living outside of Israel. In their analysis of the BDS movement, Andrew Pessin and Doron S. Ben-Atar wrote:
"So how is the BDS movement actually doing? ... [S]ome companies have ceased doing business with Israel .... The cultural boycott boasts of some cultural figures who endorse the boycott.... The academic boycott can point to many academics who publicly support BDS .... Several significant mainline Protestant churches continue their early support of BDS. ... In the sense of actual concrete achievements, however, the report card is less impressive. ... [Israel's] gross domestic product (GDP) has nearly doubled between 2006 (the early days of the BDS movement) and 2015. Foreign investment in Israel has tripled during the same period."
In June 2015 a Rand Corporation analysis concluded that a successful BDS campaign against Israel, if it could be maintained for 10 years, could cost the Israeli economy $47 billion. This figure, which was not published in the report, was reportedly determined by using a model examining previous attempts to boycott countries. The Rand Corporation also noted that "evidence on the effectiveness of sanctions is mixed, making an assessment of the potential economic effects of the BDS movement problematic".
A 2016 poll found that 58% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza think the BDS has had a positive impact and 14% believe it to be negative.
During a visit to South Africa in 2013, President Mahmoud Abbas stunned reporters and Palestinian activists by stating that the Palestinians do not support a general boycott of Israel. He supported, however, a boycott of settlement products. Omar Barghouti told Electronic Intifada that Abbas's statement conflicted with the mission of BDS.
At the 25th African Union assembly in the South Africa in June 2015, President Abbas urged the African countries to boycott goods produced by settlement companies in the West Bank.
In March 2016 the Israeli Intelligence and Atomic Energy Minister Yisrael Katz argued that Israel should employ "targeted civil eliminations" against leaders of the BDS movement. The expression puns on the Hebrew word for targeted assassinations.
In June 2016 Haaretz reported that Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister was going to establish a "dirty tricks" unit to "establish, hire or tempt nonprofit organizations or groups not associated with Israel, in order to disseminate" negative information about BDS supporters. The news came on the heels of a report that Israel's efforts to fight the BDS movement have been ineffectual, in part because the responsibility had been transferred to the Strategic Affairs Ministry from the Foreign Ministry. "Despite receiving expanded authority in 2013 to run the government's campaign against the delegitimization and boycott efforts against Israel, the Strategic Affairs Ministry did not make full use of its budget and had no significant achievements in this area," Haaretz quotes the report as saying. "In 2015, it still did not carry out its work plans."
On 7 January 2018 Israel's Ministry of Strategic Affairs published a list of 20 specific non-government organizations whose officials would be banned from entering the country, including the BDS national committee, BDS France, BDS South Africa, BDS Italy, BDS Chile, and BDS Kampagne.
Responses by other governments
In 2016 a non-binding motion was passed in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario that "calls on the legislature to stand against any movement that promotes hate, prejudice and racism" and "reject the 'differential treatment' of Israel by the BDS movement". The motion was supported by the two largest parties, the governing centrist Ontario Liberal Party and the opposition centre-right Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario, with only the social democratic Ontario New Democratic Party opposed.
In France, the 2003 Lellouche law outlaws discrimination based on a variety of immutable characteristics, including national origin." That law and hate speech laws have been applied against BDS activities.
In December 2017 Munich passed a bill banning boycotts of Israel, becoming the first German city to deny space and public funds for the BDS campaign. Charlotte Knobloch, a holocaust survivor and chairwoman of the Munich Jewish community who campaigned for the legislation, said, "Munich sent a signal against antisemitism". In May 2018 the State Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Baden-Württemberg called BDS a "new variation of antisemitism." In September 2018 the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany's most populous state, banned BDS and barred public institutions from hosting and supporting BDS groups.
In May 2019 the German Bundestag passed a "symbolic" non-binding resolution declaring BDS antisemitic and stating that it was "reminiscent of the most terrible chapter in German history". The lower house voted down a competing motion from the far-right Alternative for Germany party that called for BDS to be banned entirely. The Left Party refused to support the motion but said they also rejected BDS.
Dublin's City Council passed two resolutions on 9 April 2018 endorsing the BDS movement that included a motion to boycott Hewlett Packard (HP) goods, for its complicity concerning Israeli occupation. In doing so, it became the first European capital to endorse BDS.
In January 2019 the Dail (Ireland's lower house) voted in favour, by 78 to 45, of the Control of Economic Activity (Occupied Territories) bill. This piece of legislation prohibits the purchasing of any good and/or service from the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem or West Bank settlements. Once codified, as of February 2019 the bill has some stages to be completed, either a five-year jail sentence or fines of up to €250,000 ($284,000) will affect anyone who breaks this law.
In 2012 South African African National Congress party gave its support to the BDS movement stating it was "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel." In January 2018 it notified Israel that blacklisting individuals who support BDS has only served to strengthen the ANC's support for the Palestinian people.
In 2018 Navarre, a state in northern Spain, was the first to endorse the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. It passed a motion that requested Spain "suspend its ties with Israel until the country ceases its policy of criminal repression of the Palestinian population."
Spain's 3rd largest city, Valencia, passed a resolution to boycott Israeli citizens and companies. It declares that the city is “free of Israeli apartheid”, and calls for it to formally follow the BDS movement.
In August 2018 two Spanish municipalities rescinded their BDS motions, following legal action.
In 2014 Leicester City Council passed a motion which supported BDS in boycotting goods originating from illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to oppose "continuing illegal occupation" of Palestinian territory and the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli government. Other councils that have implemented boycotts supporting BDS include Swansea Council (2010), and Gwynedd Council (2014). Legal action against the councils brought by Jewish Human Rights Watch (JHRW) was subsequently dismissed by both the High Court and then the Court of Appeal in July 2018. The councils were all cleared of anti-Semitism over the Israeli goods boycott.
The lead judgement given by Lord Justice Sales stated that the Council's motion condemned ‘certain actions’ of Israel's government yet still recognised the state of Israel's right to exist. He said, "The condemnation was in line with a respectable body of opinion, including the UK government, the United Nations General Assembly, the European Union and the International Court of Justice." He added, "the criticism made was temperate and legitimate." Lord Justice Floyd and Lord Justice Underhill supported his decision. The judgement also stated that similar judgements were a “well-known gesture of political solidarity with oppressed groups overseas, as illustrated by calls for boycotts of goods from South Africa during the apartheid era.”
Leicester City Council's barrister, Kamal Adatia noted, ‘The ruling totally endorses Leicester’s approach to handling this motion, and has made no change whatsoever to the way in which councils can pass such motions in future. The judgement is a landmark – not for organisations like JHRW – but for all local councils. It recognises their fundamental right to pass motions of this nature and makes it clear that they can, like Leicester, fully comply with their equality duties when doing so.’
Earlier in February 2016 the British government had banned boycotts of Israeli goods by public authorities, stating said authorities would face severe penalties should they enact such a boycott, as the government deemed such boycotts damaging to community cohesion and hurting Britain's national security.
In several states, these laws have been challenged on First Amendment grounds for violating citizens' freedom of speech. In April 2019 a federal judge blocked Texas's anti-boycott law as unconstitutional on free-speech grounds.
Artists and writers
Pink Floyd musician Roger Waters supports BDS. Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, has given her support to BDS and has rejected further editions of The Color Purple from being published in Israel.
The African National Congress endorsed BDS in 2012. The party declared itself "unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel". Following Israel's ground invasion of Gaza in 2014, the Green Party of England and Wales's conference supported "active participation in the BDS movement". Scotland's Green Party endorsed a boycott of Israel in October 2015. Members of the Green Party of Canada voted to endorse BDS in August 2016, despite the objections of the party's leader and sole MP Elizabeth May. In June 2018 the Socialist International issued a Declaration expressing support for "Boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against the Israeli occupation, all the occupation institutions, and the illegal Israeli settlements including the total embargo on all forms of military trade and cooperation with Israel as long as it continues its policies of occupation and Apartheid against the Palestinian people". In 2014, an international Jewish group, Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, issued a list of signatories endorsing the American Studies Association academic boycott of Israel. The Israeli activist organization Boycott from Within supports the BDS campaign. Boycott From Within regularly releases statements calling on musicians to cancel concerts scheduled in Israel. In May 2019, a group of 60 Jewish and Israeli academics signed a letter criticizing a motion under consideration by the German parliament declaring BDS antisemitic, and calling it part of a larger effort to delegitimize supporters of Palestine. The resolution was nonetheless passed a few days later by a large majority..
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) supports the campaign for BDS against Israel, fully endorsing it in July 2011. During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, COSATU vowed to "intensify" their support for the campaign, picketing Woolworths for stocking Israeli goods.
In April 2014 the UK's National Union of Teachers, the largest teacher's union in the EU, passed a resolution backing boycotts against Israel. In July of that year, the UK's Unite the Union voted to join BDS.
In April 2015 the Confédération des syndicats nationaux, Quebec, Canada, representing 325,000 in nearly 2,000 unions, voted to join the campaign for BDS and support a military embargo against Israel.
The South African cleric Desmond Tutu has endorsed the BDS Movement, saying, "In South Africa, we could not have achieved our democracy without the help of people around the world, who through the use of non-violent means, such as boycotts and divestment, encouraged their governments and other corporate actors to reverse decades-long support for the apartheid regime." In an essay for Haaretz, Tutu wrote, "Those who contribute to Israel’s temporary isolation are saying that Israelis and Palestinians are equally entitled to dignity and peace."
Artists, actors, and writers
In 2015 author J. K. Rowling made the following statement:
The Palestinian community has suffered untold injustice and brutality. I want to see the Israeli government held to account for that injustice and brutality. Boycotting Israel on every possible front has its allure… What sits uncomfortably with me is that severing contact with Israel’s cultural and academic community means refusing to engage with some of the Israelis who are most pro-Palestinian, and most critical of Israel’s government.
Others who oppose the BDS movement include Howard Stern and Ed Asner. Novelist Ian McEwan, upon being awarded the Jerusalem Prize, was urged to turn it down, but said, "If I only went to countries that I approve of, I probably would never get out of bed. [...] It's not great if everyone stops talking."
But I do think that the B.D.S. movement, at its heart – when you see what is really behind it, and the people who have organized it – is intent on the destruction of the State of Israel. If you look at the founding documents of the groups that first proposed B.D.S., they called for a full right of return, and, essentially, in practical terms, they’re calling for the destruction of the State of Israel. I think the ultimate objective of B.D.S. is not B.D.S. itself. If that were the case, we would all have to give up our iPhones, because so much of that technology is created in Israel. I think the objective of B.D.S., and especially the people who are the main organizers and supporters, is to make anything that comes out of Israel toxic, and I think they have had some success. So I see that, but I do not think that any kid who supports B.D.S. is ipso facto an anti-Semite. I think that’s wrong. It’s a mistake. And it’s not helpful.
In 2019, Madonna defied pressure by BDS and other pro-Palestinian groups to boycott the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest held in Israel, saying she would "never stop playing music to suit someone's political agenda, nor will I stop speaking out against violations of human rights wherever in the world they may be."
Over 100 celebrities, including such critics of the Israeli government as Stephen Fry, signed a statement against boycotting Eurovision in Israel. The statement read: “We believe the cultural boycott movement is an affront to both Palestinians and Israelis who are working to advance peace through compromise, exchange, and mutual recognition.” 
Political parties that oppose BDS include the Liberal Party of Australia and both major political parties in the United States. A common reason given for opposing BDS is that it attacks Israel's legitimacy and fosters antisemitism. Berlin's Social Democratic Party (SPD) accused BDS of antisemitism in May 2017 and some observers, such as Reinhard Schramm, the head of the SPD in Ilmenau and the head of the Jewish community of the state of Thuringia, say that BDS shows the SPD's commitment to protecting the Jewish state is doubtful.
In December 2015 the executive board of the United Auto Workers struck down a vote by UAW Local 2865 to support the BDS movement. Local 2865 represents students workers on the University of California.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said that Israel is used to debate, criticism, and controversy, but that BDS is an attempt to influence discussion in unhealthy ways. "Boycotts, violence, and incitement only deepen divides, and don't bring us any closer to a solution. When BDS takes over, criticism turns into camouflage for the de-legitimization of the existence of the State of Israel," Rivlin wrote in a 2016 Ynetnews op-ed. He added, "I'm sorry to say that some parts of BDS even include factions which are connected to enemies of the State of Israel, and who work in order to eradicate Israel as a Jewish state. Some of them are even worse, and hide their anti-Semitism by calling their actions 'criticism of Israeli policy.'"
The long-standing pro-Palestinian activist and political scientist Norman Finkelstein called the BDS movement a "cult". He argued that the worldwide movement was overly controlled by the Ramallah headquarters, made unrealistic claims so as to hide a wish to destroy Israel, and accused the movement of exaggerating its achievements and its capacity, most notably by maintaining that it represents the entire pro-Palestine movement. Finkelstein also asserted that the movement misrepresented and misinterpreted Israel's obligation under international law as defined by the International Court of Justice.
Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar said, "I think BDS is an unfair, discriminatory movement based on a moral double standard that is, in the final analysis, anti-Semitic [...] BDS is in fact trying to harm every Israeli citizen and not only the government. In reality what BDS wants is to make life in Israel intolerable so the Jewish nation will not be able to have a normal existence in its state. BDS does not only want to change the government's policy, it wants to empty the country of Jews."
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Reception to the BDS movement has been mixed and varies widely depending on geography and politics. Some political parties, such as the NSW Greens in Australia and the Québec solidaire in Canada, have supported BDS. BDS has also found support from some private companies, churches, and academic associations.
The reaction to BDS in the United States has been especially polarizing. Several bills and resolutions have been written in federal and state legislatures with the intent to combat BDS.
New Criterion reported that "some 300 university presidents denounced BDS as inimical to the academic spirit." According to Yehuda Ben Meir and Owen Alterman in an essay published in the Strategic Survey for Israel 2011 by the Institute for National Security Studies (Israel), by depicting Israel as a racist, fascist, totalitarian, and apartheid state, BDS engages in defamation and demonization of Israel. They state that this is followed by the specific targeting of Israeli diplomatic, economic, academic, and cultural targets—regardless of their position or connection to the conflict, which they describe as incitement. In a 2009 opinion column for The Jerusalem Post, Gil Troy argued that the BDS movement does not target Israel's policies, but rather targets Israel's legitimacy. The Israeli Reut Institute has argued that the BDS movement singles out Israel, and applies double standards that delegitimize Israel.
In 2007 The Economist called the boycott "flimsy" and ineffective, noted that "blaming Israel alone for the impasse in the occupied territories will continue to strike many outsiders as unfair," and pointed out that the Palestinian leadership did not support the boycott. By early 2014, however, they noted that the campaign, "[o]nce derided as the scheming of crackpots", was "turning mainstream" in the eyes of many Israelis. Alan Dershowitz and the Israeli Action Network pointed to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas's support of a boycott specific to Israeli businesses that operate in Israeli settlements in the Palestinian Territories over a general boycott of Israel as evidence that BDS is not in the Palestinians' favor. Dershowitz added, "The BDS movement is immoral because it would hurt the wrong people" such as Palestinians employees of the firms affected by BDS or patients awaiting medicine made by those firms.
Dershowitz also argued that the BDS movement disincentivizes the Palestinian leadership from negotiating with Israel at present. The Anti-Defamation League similarly encouraged critics of Israel to promote constructive dialogue between Israeli and Palestinian actors rather than destructive and one-sided delegitimization tactics.
Allegations of antisemitism
The Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Israeli officials categorize the BDS movement as antisemitic. Abraham Foxman penned an advertisement that ran in The New York Times that criticized Brooklyn College's political science department for sponsoring a conference promoting BDS. In the ad, Foxman referred to the BDS movement as antisemitic "at its very core".
Other arguments include:
- The "double-standards" argument claims that the BDS campaign singles out Israel, or that it judges the state with standards different from those used to judge other political situations. For example, Charles Krauthammer wrote: "Israel is the world's only Jewish state. To apply to the state of the Jews a double standard that you apply to none other, to judge one people in a way you judge no other, to single out that one people for condemnation and isolation – is to engage in a gross act of discrimination." Retired Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz compared the way BDS proponents "single out" Israel for its human rights violations with the way Harvard president A. Lawrence Lowell defended his decision to impose anti-Jewish quotas in the beginning of the twentieth century. When asked why there should be a quota on Jews, Lowell replied, "Jews cheat." When reminded that Christians cheat too, Lowell responded, "You're changing the subject. We are talking about Jews now."
- The accusation that supporters of the campaign make antisemitic statements or engage in antisemitic activity. For example, some supporters compare Israel's contemporary treatment of Arabs to Nazi Germany's treatment of Jews during the Holocaust and deny Israel's right to self-determination. The Australian attributes BDS supporters with antisemitic activity including the publication of material on the Internet that denies the Holocaust and promotes attacks against "Jews and Jew lovers".
- Seeing similarities, or exact identification, between BDS and historical acts of discrimination against Jewish minorities, such as historic antisemitic boycotts such as the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses.
- The argument that BDS is a significant step in the creeping normality of antisemitism. The resulting atmosphere threatens Jewish students on American college campuses.
- In the case of academic boycotts, BDS targets Israelis who are often on record as opposing the continued Israeli presence in Palestinian territories and supporting Arab–Israeli peace initiatives.
- According to Ira M. Sheskin of the University of Miami and Ethan Felson of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, BDS efforts have, at times, targeted Jewish individuals who have little or nothing to do with the Arab–Israeli conflict.
Several replies have been made to the allegations presented above:
- Jay Michaelson wrote an editorial in The Jewish Daily Forward critical of Foxman's position. His editorial mentioned that several leaders of the BDS movement are themselves Jewish and state that the ADL, "with every pro-censorship stance it takes [...] loses more and more credibility and cheapens the meaning of the term 'anti-Semitism' itself".
- Judith Butler asserts that BDS's demands are fully compatible with, and derived from, international standards for human rights. From this Butler draws the conclusion that equating BDS with antisemitism amounts to the assertion that those standards are antisemitic. Butler argues that the allegation of anti-Semitism springs necessarily from a false "generalizations about all Jews", presuming that "they all share the same political commitments" while ignoring a view prevalent among some Jews who were "exceedingly critical" of the state. A similar line of reasoning was developed by Omar Barghouti, who claims that those who criticize BDS as an attack on all the Jewish people are equating the latter with the state of Israel.
- A joint letter, signed in 2018 by 41 left-leaning Jewish social justice organizations from around the world, affirmed that BDS's tools and tactics “should not be defined as antisemitic.” The letter stated, “At times like this, it is more important than ever to distinguish between the hostility to or prejudice against Jews on the one hand and legitimate critiques of Israeli policies and system of injustice on the other
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And so the event has also been hounded by activists spearheaded by the Palestinian-led campaign Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS).
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The event has become a target for the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign
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The Strategic Affairs Ministry said the Palestinian-led movement that promotes boycotts against Israel is behind the effort.
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- Barghouti, Omar (2011). Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions: The Global Struggle for Palestinian Rights. Haymarket Books. ISBN 978-1-60846-114-1.
- Mendes, Philip & Dyrenfurth, Nick (2015). Boycotting Israel is Wrong: The Progressive Path to Peace between Palestinians and Israelis. Sydney, Kensington: NewSouth (University of New South Wales Press). ISBN 978-1-74-223414-4: A critique of the BDS Movement.
- Nelson, Cary (2016). Dreams Deferred: A Concise Guide to the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict and the Movement to Boycott Israel. Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-25-302518-0.
- Pessin, Andrew and Doron S. Ben-Atar, editors. Anti-Zionism on Campus: The University, Free Speech, and BDS. Indiana University Press, 2018. ISBN 978-0-253-03406-9
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Supportive of BDS
- Global BDS Campaign
- BRICUP (the British Committee for the Universities of Palestine) the body that promotes the academic boycott in the UK
- PACBI (Palestinian campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel)
- Palestinian United Call for BDS against Israel by the Boycott National Committee
- Jello Biafra: "Caught in the crossfire: Should musicians boycott Israel?" on Al Jazeera website (critically supportive)
Critical of BDS
- "Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)", Anti-Defamation League, 2014.
- Jiulio Meotti, Is BDS campaign working?, Ynetnews, 31 August 2011
- NGO Monitor, Israeli anti-BDS organisation
- "Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel: An Anti-Semitic, Anti-Peace Poison Pill", Simon Wiesenthal Center, March 2013
- Delegitimation of Israel and Israel Attachments Among Jewish Young Adults:The College Campus and Other Contributing Factors, a paper by The Jewish People Policy Institute
Debates on BDS and Mixed Support
- Debate between Omar Barghouti and Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Democracy Now!